Gaming Round-Up: What I Did Over the Holidays

I have now returned from my short holiday blogging break. As always, the holidays brought with them a wealth of in-game events in various titles, so it was a time for me to go full game-hopper. Here’s a sampling of some of the more interesting things I did over the holidays.

My character dancing as part of the New Life Festival event in Elder Scrolls OnlineElder Scrolls Online: New Life Festival

I had already been thinking of getting back into ESO, and the newly implemented holiday event provided the perfect excuse.

Like the rest of ESO, the New Life Festival isn’t amazing but nonetheless has a certain charm. It definitely doesn’t give one much cause for complaint, managing to avoid most of the pitfalls outlined in my recent article on MMO holidays.

The event’s hub is a Nord woman named Breda in Eastmarch, who sends you on daily quests relating to the nine main playable races and their unique holiday practices. It’s not exactly thrilling, but it does add a nice texture to the world.

Naturally the Aldmeri quests are the best. The Bosmer quest wins for most fun, allowing you to toss mudballs* at basically anyone, be they players or NPCs, up to and including Queen Ayrenn herself. Now, I quite like Ayrenn, and my character is rather fond of her too, but when you have the chance to chuck a wad of mud at the high and mighty queen of the Altmer, you take it.

*(I guess when you live in a place that doesn’t get snow you make do.)

Meanwhile, the Altmer quest is a bit dull but very quick and farmable, and the Khajiit quest is a nice mix of fun and convenience. It involves stealing things because of course it does.

My sorcerer takes place in the Snow Bear Plunge as part of Elder Scrolls Online's New Life FestivalThat said, the Breton quest is kind of cool, and the Nord one is also fun, if a little on the longer side compared to some of the other dailies. Really the only bad ones are the Dunmer quest (fun concept but way longer than it needs be) and the Argonian quest (ew fishing).

My only minor grievance would be that the event does involve a lot of travel. If you’ve already explored all the zones where quests take place (which is nearly all of them), you can use wayshrines to save a lot of time, but if not… I’m very glad of that spurt of exploration I had recently; saved me a lot of time during the event.

It does illustrate the potential inherent in One Tamriel, at least. It’s great to see an MMO utilizing all of its game world; makes it feel like a real place.

It’s also a fairly rewarding event, especially when you consider the double XP buff you can get from Breda’s keg (which I wish I had learned about earlier in the event). You can get pretty respectable amounts of gold and XP from the dailies, and they also drop holiday loot at a pretty generous rate. With the help of a little trading, I got nearly everything I wanted in the first two days.

On that note, one significant piece of loot is the Nordic Bather’s Towel costume. I have been considering it as a potential new go-to outfit for my Bosmer.

The Nordic Bather's Towel costume in Elder Scrolls OnlineNormally I avoid revealing gear in games, but in the case of the Bosmer, it seems to make sense to invoke a more barbaric aesthetic. She’s a barely civilized cannibal from the deep jungle; it just doesn’t add up for her to be in full plate or something. And despite the name, the towel actually works pretty well as a sort of barbaric kilt look.

Then again, it is really revealing. I’d like a more savage style of armour, but I’d still like it to be armour, which the towel isn’t. At least it shows off her tattoos…

Bleh. The Argonian low level tops are exactly what I want, but I’m about to outlevel them. Why doesn’t this game have a bloody wardrobe? What kind of game doesn’t have a wardrobe in this day and age?

If nothing else, I guess she’s now equipped to defend herself from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

Heroes of the Storm: Varian impressions

I’ve barely touched Heroes over the last few months, but Varian is a character I’ve loved for years, and I’ve wanted him in Heroes of the Storm for a very long time, so when he came up on a free rotation coinciding with a holiday XP boost, I knew I had to give him a shot.

A promotional image of Varian Wrynn in Heroes of the StormThe interesting thing about Varian is that you would think he’d be a very complicated character, being the game’s first multiclass hero, but he’s actually quite mechanically simple.

He’s still theoretically complex because he is basically three characters in one, but once you’ve decided which build you’re going for, his actual ability toolkit and moment to moment gameplay are very simple.

I actually think he’d be a good choice for newer players because the simplicity of his kit allows you to focus a lot more on the fundamentals of the game — positioning, team play, and the like. There’s a certain purity to his playstyle that’s very charming. No gimmicks, no tricks, just charge in and bring the pain.

I tended to prefer his Twin Blades of Fury self-healing build — I found it to be both very fun and very powerful. Reminded me of how Valla used to be, except melee.

His tank build seems decent, too, though the range on Taunt really needs to be longer. I almost never got to use it because I was never in range when it counted.

That said, though, I’m still feeling pretty burnt out on Heroes, so after getting Varian to level five, I’m now on another indefinite hiatus from the game.

The Secret World: Same old, same old

Super Hel is not impressedDidn’t spend a whole lot of time in TSW this year. The holiday event was pretty much the same as previous years, with only a few very minor new additions. I did a few Super Hels and bought my usual party bag, but that’s about it.

There is one interesting thing to come out of this year’s event, but that deserves a post of its own…

Titan Quest: Not quite…

While it’s not holiday-related, one other thing that’s worth mentioning here, if only because it wouldn’t fill a whole post on its own, is that I finally cleared out the last of my Steam backlog by giving Titan Quest a go.

Titan Quest is an older game that recently got a remastered edition. The new version launched at a generous discount, so I figured it was worth a try, especially since Titan Quest is a game I’ve been mildly curious about for a while. On paper, it’s a game right up my alley: an action RPG based on ancient mythology.

The game does have a lot going for it, and it left a pretty good first impression. The graphics in the remastered version are gorgeous, and I was really glad to see that they seemed to have done their research in regards to the mythologies the game is based on. They actually know it’s Herakles, not Hercules!

Battling skeletons in Titan QuestThere’s also a “build your own class” system wherein you can combine any two skill trees out of a long list of possibilities that I think is at least theoretically interesting.

I enjoyed my first few hours in Titan Quest, but over time, the game’s old school obnoxiousness really started to wear me down. Boss mechanics weren’t really a thing in those days, so the average boss fight tended to involve nothing but holding down the left mouse button and hitting the healing potion button on cooldown.

For, like, three minutes straight.

What really dragged me down, though, was the agonizingly slow pace of character progression. Leveling is slow, and there just never seems to be enough skill points to do everything you want. Not only do you need to spend points to unlock abilities, but you also need to keep investing large amount of points to keep your abilities up to par, and you need to invest points separately into the skill tree itself to unlock later abilities. Points spent on abilities don’t count toward advancing the skill tree for some incomprehensible reason.

I didn’t feel like I was building the awesome character I wanted to. I just felt like I was constantly trying to play catch-up and never really getting anywhere. A feeling I remember being common in older RPGs.

So as it stands now I don’t think I’m going to continue with Titan Quest. It’s a shame, because there is quite a lot about the game I genuinely like.

A Greek town in Titan QuestIf nothing else it was good to confirm that my memories of older RPGs are in fact accurate and that RPGs actually are much better nowadays.

And finally…

I have also had another article published at MMO Bro: a guide to taking great MMO screenshots.

Since starting blogging, taking screenshots has become something of a crippling obsession oh gods help me hobby for me, and I’ve had a lot of time to practice taking good shots. I now pass my wisdom on to you.

At least some of these tips should apply to single-player games, too, if you’re not an MMO fanatic.